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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 39, Issue 4, October 2013

Matthew Oliver
Pages 669-685

Freedom on the People’s Terms
The Problem of Democratic Domination

In On The People’s Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy, Philip Pettit offers a conception of freedom as non-domination that is, he claims, compromised by any regime other than democracy, yet is fully compatible with coercion by a suitably democratic state. However, as I argue, Pettit has difficulty trying to deliver the latter half of this promise. This essay offers an analysis of Pettit’s definition of freedom as non-domination, specifically, his approach to invasion and controlled interference, demonstrating that it is incapable of doing the work he wants it to do. I argue that he ought to surrender not his definition, but rather the claim that a democratic government can avoid compromising the freedom of its citizens.

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